How Healthy Foods Boost Your Child’s Brain
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Now that school is out and the kids are home, your family may have forgotten how to eat healthy. Kids have a tendency to lounge at the refrigerator all day, using boredom as an excuse to eat more.
It doesn’t have to be like that! Now is the perfect time to set goals to improve your family’s eating habits. Fall may be too busy to make the changes your family needs for better health, so the right time to start is now.
The Mental Health Benefits Of Eating Well
A lot of us tend to focus on our physical health, but the state of our mental health can have big implications in our lives. What we eat and drink can have a positive impact on our mental health, just as the way we love, interact, and cope with life’s challenges do.
In fact, recent research supports this idea. Several important studies done in the last few years have shown this to be true:
- Parents Magazine reports that a study done in 2017 with over 7,000 children showed that those who ate a better diet had higher self-esteem and fewer emotional problems.
- Another 2017 study showed that kids and adolescents who ate fast food, sugar, and soft drinks were “associated with a higher prevalence of diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
- There have also been a number of studies done in the US and other countries that show a correlation between hunger in underprivileged children and issues that include lower IQ, ADHD, anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, and aggression.
We can see that it’s important to feed your kids right! But what are the best foods for growing brains?
Foods For Better Mental Health
Recent science has taught us that a healthy gut can contribute to better mental health. In fact, the gut is lined with neurons that scientists now call the “second brain.” According to Scientific American, 95 percent of the important neurotransmitter serotonin found in our bodies is in our bowels. Serotonin may help balance our foods, impact our sleep, and can impact both mood and behavior.
In order to have a healthy gut, you should pay attention to the bacteria in your gut. This article from Verywell Health explains that the gut can contain both healthy flora, which are microorganisms that aid our digestive system, and harmful bacteria that hurt it. A diet full of sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as long-term use of antibiotics, can promote those unhealthy bacteria. To have a well-balanced gut, you should take prebiotics via fiber-rich foods and probiotics through fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickles.
There are other foods that can boost your mental health and keep your gut healthy, according to Psychology today, including:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon. Be sure to follow your pediatrician’s guidelines on how much to feed your child (due to mercury contamination in the fish).
- Leafy greens, like spinach, which are great to combat deficiencies that increase your odds of depression.
- Lean protein, like fish, turkey, chicken, and beans, can help balance serotonin levels.
Foods You Should Avoid
If your child already has some mental health challenges, here are some foods to avoid:
- ADHD: Sugar, artificial colors, and stimulants (caffeine, energy drinks) can be a problem, as well as fish with mercury in it. Read more at Everyday Health.
- Anxiety: Caffeine, artificial sweeteners, additives, MSG, and trans fats are just some of the foods that make this list. Read what else to avoid at Prevention.
- Depression: According to Livestrong, foods high in sodium or a diet high in pesticides or gluten may contribute to depression.
How To Change Your Eating Habits
Gradual change is best for kids. Experts say they need to see a food 21 times before trying something new, so just keep putting it out for them. Encourage them to get involved with food preparation, because they are more likely to eat what they make.
Healthy eating can help your child improve his behavior, academics, attention, and more! Work to reduce the sugar and junk foods in his diet and help him adapt a healthy lifestyle.
For more tips on keeping your child well rested, happy, and healthy, check out our newest posts on the Chapter1 Daycare blog.
Article Courtesy of Ashley Taylor. All comments are writer’s own. Readers should always obtain professional medical advice for certainty.